How to Cut Shells to Make Mother of Pearl Jewelry

Mother of pearl builds up on the inside of shells when they are still inhabited by a living creature.
Mother of pearl builds up on the inside of shells when they are still inhabited by a living creature. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Mother of pearl may seem like an expensive jewelry component, but with your own collection of cleaned shells and a few tools, you can make mother of pearl jewelry for a fraction of the cost. Mother of pearl is an iridescent material that builds up on the inside of mollusk and oyster shells. Once these shells have been cleaned with a combination of muriatic acid and bleach, you will have smooth shells made mostly of mother of pearl. Cut the mother of pearl into shapes, drill a hole in each shape, and attach them to chains to make mother of pearl jewelry.

Things You'll Need

  • Cleaned shells
  • Pencil
  • Carpenter's gloves
  • Dremel tool with fiberglass cutting disk
  • Safety goggles
  • Safety mask
  • Sandpaper
  • Buffer
  • Jeweler's rouge

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Use a pencil to outline on your shells the shapes that you want to create.

Attach the fiberglass cutting disk to the head of your Dremel tool if it isn't attached already.

Turn on the Dremel tool and gently drag the moving head across the pencil lines that you made on the shell. Make sure that you don't press down too hard on the tool, as this could shatter the shell. The movement on the standard cutting disk will do the work for you.

Sand down the sharp edges of the cut shell with sandpaper.

Buff the mother of pearl pieces with a buffing cloth and a light layer of jeweler's rouge. Wash the jeweler's rouge off with warm water immediately after use to prevent staining.

Tips & Warnings

  • While using your Dremel you, always wear safety goggles and a safety mask for your mouth to protect your eyes and lungs from dust and bits that may tear away during the cutting process.
  • After you have cut the shells, the edges and corners will be sharp enough to cut skin. Wear carpenter's gloves for protection from the edges while handling the cut shells.

References

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